Title: Changes For Molly
Author: Valerie Tripp
Illustrator: Nick Bakes
Summary: Molly can hardly wait for Dad to come home! She’s especially excited because he’ll arrive in time to see her dance the part of Miss Victory in the big Red Cross show. Molly isn’t worried about her tap dancing because she’s the best in Miss LaVonda’s dance class. But she wants to look sophisticated so Dad will know how much she’s grown up while he’s been away at war. Unfortunately, Molly’s hair is all wrong. When Jill finally finds a way to give Molly glorious curls, everything seems to be perfect. Then Molly gets sick. Things couldn’t be worse – until the doctor comes just in time.
Why the hell did I agonize about putting this off for so long when that back summary gave away nearly the entire book?
Seriously though, this project shouldn’t have taken as long as it did for me to complete. That’s all on me, but, I think maybe it’s for the best I did wait until now to finish this recap. Things right now are a nightmare because of the coronavirus pandemic. People are dying and this country’s healthcare system’s finally been exposed as the joke it is. Unemployment’s on the rise and toilet paper’s being hoarded like gold. [Wing: This recap has been waiting awhile for me to comment on it, and I want to recognise the ongoing violence against Black people, including the extrajudicial murder of so many by a corrupt, over-powered, unchecked police force. This is not new, of course, but the wide-spread coverage is bringing light to a problem that Black people deal with daily. I hope the protests and demands bring actual, practical change. The Nostalgic Bookshelf family of recap sites have made donations to various bail funds and community support systems, but there is so much more fighting to do. Here is one potential resource, a Google doc, of things people in the USA can do; it also links to a Google spreadsheet with more.]
Right now both my stadium and census jobs have been delayed and my biggest fear’s losing the comic shop. My sibling works at a Trader Joe’s and my dad’s a security guard at a nursing home, so both of them are dealing with worse shit. In fact, my grandpa’s staying at the very same home and the virus has gotten into the building. Thank God he’s okay for now, but my dad doesn’t feel well and he doesn’t know if it’s the virus or not.
So, re-reading this book, it talks about the way life changes during a time of crisis. This isn’t a war we’re dealing with, but it feels like it. This also talks about doing what you can in similar situations, which makes me realize I need to do more writing for myself and others. I’m not sure how much these recaps can help, but if they put a smile on at least one person’s face that’ll be worth it.
It’s a rainy March afternoon and Molly McIntire’s waiting for the bus with her best friends Linda and Susan. The girls have just left Miss LaVonda’s (holy SHIT I love that name) dance class. Nearly everyone in the town of Jefferson’s participating in “Hurray for the U.S.A.,” a show being performed for the local Veterans’ Hospital. Molly, her friends, and everyone in their tap dance class will be performing a patriotic song and dance number at the very end. They’re all gonna be wearing costumes in red, white and blue to simulate a big flag. [Wing: The imperialistic national pride in armed forces in the USA is dangerous, but at the same time, we treat our veterans horrifically when they come home, and work done to help them, including uplifting their spirits, is important.]
All the girls are especially excited because Miss LaVonda’s yet to pick the lucky dancer who’ll be “Miss Victory.” In the coming week everyone’s gonna get the chance to audition. See, Miss Victory’s special because she gets to do a solo routine.
Molly’s been practicing and memorizing the moves by herself and shows off in front of her friends. Susan and Linda are both pretty impressed Molly’s able to do the dance even in rain boots. Neither of them want the part since they’d both get too nervous performing a solo in front of everyone. No, they’re both sure Molly deserves to be Miss Victory.
Linda points out dancing the best is one half of getting Miss Victory. Sometimes these things are judged based on if someone looks the part, too. Susan argues their teacher’s always been fair, but Linda’s certain it’d help if Molly had a more glamorous look. The Miss Victory costume, especially the star crown, wouldn’t look good on just anyone. Linda thinks the costume works best on someone with curly hair. Straight hair doesn’t mesh with it, or, um, braids either, like Molly has.
Molly’s forced to admit yeah, Miss Victory needs some glamour and unfortunately her braids are too ordinary. Susan proposes Molly can change her hair, like how her sister Gloria gave herself a home permanent. Gloria had clumpy hair before, but now she’s got curls. While discussing the home permanent method, Linda warns the girls it can be pretty tricky. Her own aunt tried it and her hair ended up looking like a poodle’s. Molly doesn’t think her mom would let her get a permanent anyway, but Linda points out Mrs. McIntire wouldn’t HAVE to know. At least, not until it’s all said and done.
On the bus, the girls discuss the price for a home permanent kit and Molly’s friends offer up their weekend movie money to buy one. Susan offers to give Molly the permanent herself since she clearly knows all about it. [Wing: Ugh, friendship and support, I want so much more of this.]
Returning home, Molly’s a bit moody about her hair situation but doesn’t mention it to her mom. Mrs. McIntire reveals she’s received a new letter from Mr. McIntire they can read now that Molly’s home. It turns out to be the best letter they’ve received in a while, because Dad’s coming home!
The kids all cheer before Mrs. McIntire finishes reading the letter. It says Mr. McIntire’s received new orders and he’ll be working at Jefferson’s Veterans’ Hospital. He’s not sure when he’ll be leaving but it might be around March 18th.
The letter ends with talk about how the kids have all changed. Ricky’s probably a basketball star, Brad’s not a baby anymore, Jill’s so grown-up and sophisticated, and Molly’s…
Well, he can’t wait to see “good old olly Molly” again. Oh and taste some of Mrs. Gilford’s pot roast. Boy it’s gonna be great to be home!
The family can’t believe Mr. McIntire might be home in two weeks. While discussing how they might pick him up, Molly asks to read the letter by herself. Molly’s enthusiasm dwindles when she re-reads the last paragraph. Her dad talks about how her sister and brothers changed, but she’s still “good old olly Molly.” And she gets lumped together with pot roast, of all things. Everyone else has changed in some way Dad’s proud of, but what’s Molly done? Does he still think Molly’s some little kid?
Molly decides the best way to prove she’s changed is to get the Miss Victory role. March 18th’s the day of the performance, so if Molly gets the part she can show her dad how grown-up and different she’s become. It’s all so simple in her head: Get a home permanent kit, get curls, get Miss Victory, and get Dad’s love.
Or something like that.
That night Molly can’t sleep, she’s too excited imagining her dad’s return and how proud he’ll be when she becomes Miss Victory. Wondering what life’ll be like once her father’s returned after two years in Europe, Molly looks back on life before the war. To her shock, Molly realizes she has trouble remembering what he looked like in real life. It’s easier to remember the way her dad looks in photographs.
Sneaking downstairs, Molly pulls out a photo album and looks through the pictures with her dad. It only hammers home her feelings of inadequacy. Everyone else in the photos has changed, but Molly thinks she’s remained the same in the past couple of years.
Just then Molly’s joined by her mom, asking why Molly’s up and about at this late hour. Molly talks about missing her dad and him being able to see the show. Mrs. McIntire gently reminds Molly they don’t know for sure if her dad will be home by the 18th. Internally, Molly knows her mom’s being sensible but it’s just so good to imagine him being here to see her perform on stage.
Not wanting any further discouragement, Molly admits she’s having trouble remembering what her dad looks like. Mrs. McIntire sits down next to Molly and looks through some of the photos with her. Molly’s mom points out a photo from a couple of Thanksgivings ago, ruefully commenting her once-stylish dress and hairstyle aren’t so stylish anymore. Mrs. McIntire expects her husband will look different, too. War does that to people.
“Do you think he’ll act different?” Molly asked.
“I don’t know,” said Mom. “He has seen some very sad and terrible things during the war. War does change people. It doesn’t just happen and disappear, all forgiven and forgotten. War leaves scars on people, and not just the kind of scars you can see. But I think Dad will still be our some old Dad at heart. He’ll still love us. We’ll all have to get used to one another again. It may take some time. We’re all older. We’re all different.”
“I sure want Dad to see that I’m different,” said Molly. “I want him to see that I’m grown-up now, not just a plain dumb kid anymore. But the problem is, I don’t look different.”
Mom hugged Molly. “Your dad will be so happy to see you, he won’t care what you look like,” she said. “You know he’ll always love you and be proud of you, no matter what.”
“Mothers always say that,” said Molly.
“Because it’s true!” said Mrs. McIntire with a smile.
I haven’t discussed this much in the last couple of recaps, but I’m still impressed by what a good mother Mrs. McIntire’s portrayed as in these books. And I appreciate the honesty in how war’s not something that leaves a person unscathed.
Molly’s mom reminds her tomorrow’s a school day, and they shouldn’t spend too much time downstairs at this hour. It’s too cold. The last thing Molly wants is to see her dad with a runny nose. Hugging her mom and then heading upstairs, Molly thinks how she WILL look different when her dad returns.
The girls had to wait until the weekend to buy the home permanent kit in the drug store. Pooling together their money, Linda and Susan remind Molly they’re totally behind her on this. They know it’s important to her to look different for her dad. Unfortunately Linda’s a little bit of an ass when she reminds the girls what happened to Grace Littlefield’s dad. At least Mr.McIntire’s coming home in one piece, while Mr. Littlefield lost the use of his legs due to a war injury. Susan one up’s Linda’s apathy by saying imagine how awful it’d be to have a dad who can’t walk anymore.
Girls, please. Be thankful Grace isn’t around to hear that shit.
They then remember what happened to Miss Campbell, their third grade teacher. Her fiancé, a soldier, died in action last summer.
“I wonder if Miss Campbell’s soldier ever thought he might be killed and be dead forever and never get to marry Miss Campbell,” said Susan.
“Every soldier knows he might be killed,” said Molly. “That’s why every soldier is a hero.”
“Yeah, but it seems to me that one they’re killed, they just go to heaven where everything is fine,” said Linda. “It’s the people left behind on earth who love them that have a harder time. They’re sad, but they have to go on with the rest of their lives. I think Miss Campbell is as much a hero as her soldier was.”
“But she can be proud of the sacrifice she made for her country,” said Susan.
Okay seriously Wing, these girls are giving me whiplash. I think maybe this is why I had a hard time going back to finishing this series. I mean, I don’t have any immediate relatives who’ve served in the military in any form, but with the way things are going right now with the pandemic it certainly feels like my dad and sibling are on the frontlines.
[Wing: My dad served (among many others in the family; up until this generation, at least one person in the family line served). He was a kid during WWII, but did go to Korea (and all over Europe). He was never on the front lines because of what he did, but even he saw things that he will never forget and didn’t talk about until within the past decade. I think it is hard for the family left behind, and there is always talk about being proud of the sacrifice, being proud of the people putting their lives on the line. As much as I disagree with how the US armed forces are used, for a lot of them, especially the younger members, joining was their way out of a tough situation. The people in charge who stay safe behind send these basically kids to war, to fight and die.]
Molly says she’d be more sad than proud if her dad got killed. The girls then wonder how much longer the war’ll last and discuss when, exactly, someone decides a war’s finally over. Susan asks if it’s when one side surrenders because they realized they’re wrong. Linda corrects her saying it ends when one side gives up after suffering too many losses.
[Wing: Linda’s got a point.]
The girls go on to discuss the way things’ll be once the war’s over. It’s been so long none of them are really sure what the new “normal” could be. Susan barely remembers the pre-war status quo. Linda’s not sure how things can be so great after so many people were hurt or died. Molly then explains the reason everyone’s working on “Hurray for the U.S.A.” is for the survivors.
“It’s a way to show the wounded men that we’re glad they are alive and to thank them for being so brave.”
“That’s right!” said Susan.
“It doesn’t seem like very much, but I guess it’s the best we can do,” agreed Linda.
This I feel I can comment on, because I very much like the idea of a person doing what they can instead of feeling like they can’t do anything at all. There’s no small or meaningless task.
Anyway, at the drug store, Susan insists she should do all the talking since she knows ALL about the home permanent. Inside the store the girls note there’s more on the shelves now that people aren’t expected to ration as much. There’s more than one permanent kit to choose from, and the girls pick “Big, Beautiful, Bouncy Curls for the New You.” It’s perfect for the New Molly.
At the front counter, Susan tells the pharmacist it’s not for her. It’s for someone older, which is kinda true since Molly’s two months older than Susan.
With the permanent kit, the girls rush back to Molly’s house. They decide to give her the treatment in their little hideout spot in the room above the garage. Molly starts to get doubtful about this when it becomes clear Susan doesn’t have a clue about applying the permanent. They don’t have any water to shampoo Molly’s hair, and Susan even suggests cutting some of Molly’s hair so they won’t have to apply so much lotion. Thank God they didn’t have any scissors on hand, anyway.
Opening the lotion bottle, the girls can’t believe how bad it smells. Susan finally admits she wasn’t EXACTLY present when Gloria got her permanent. She figures anyone can do it once they read the directions on the box.
Molly and her hair are both saved by the timely arrival of her sister Jill. The book doesn’t mention why Jill shows up; Jill forgets to mention it once she notices the lotion stank. It quickly dawns on Jill the girls are trying to give Molly a home permanent and she stops them. Jill warns them Molly could ruin her hair if the permanent’s done incorrectly. Besides, with Molly’s hair the permanent might just wrinkle and frizz everything.
Jill instead offers to help Molly change her hair, much to everyone’s relief.
“Yeah,” said Linda. “We sort of knew we were getting in over our heads with this permanent business. Get it?”
Gee Wing, this sure was a… hair-raising problem!
Sunday night in Jill’s room, Jill gets to work on the New Molly. She starts setting Molly’s hair in pin curls, which is slightly unpleasant for Molly. The curlicues feel like Molly’s hair’s being pulled, and the bald spots in-between make her scalp itchy and cold. Of course, if it hurts this bad Jill MUST be doing something right.
Molly’s amazed by how expertly Jill’s handling all this, which makes sense because Jill always looks sophisticated and lovely. She even asks how Jill learned all this. At first Jill thinks Molly’s referring to the hair treatment (which Jill learned from her friend Dolores), but Molly means EVERYTHING. Like, how’d you learn to be so mature, Jill? You’re always so neat and well-groomed, even your socks wrinkle just right. Jill’s not sure what to say; it’s something that happens as you get older. [Wing: That’s a goddamn lie, Jill.]
Jill confides in Molly you shouldn’t want to become grown-up so quickly. In Jill’s case, she and a lot of other people were forced to mature faster due to the war. Jill feels she was slightly cheated out of certain things, because their dad wasn’t there for important stuff. He wasn’t there to help Brad learn how to ride a two-wheeler, or help Jill with algebra. In Molly’s case, she’s lucky she still gets to be a kid with their dad for a few more years.
Forced to admit she never considered things like that, Molly still wants her dad to think she’s changed. Jill assures Molly she’s changed a lot, even if she doesn’t realize it. The idea Molly wants to change at all serves a big indicator of her growth. Before, Molly wanted everything to stay the same as it was before the war. It was a pretty childish to think and behave, like when they argued about that one Christmas. Jill points out Molly’s also a bit quieter in the way she moves around the house. Oh, and there was the time they spent with Emily Bennett living in their home (BTW where, exactly is Molly’s dog from that book?). Molly acted kinder for Emily’s sake. No, Molly’s definitely changed for the better.
When Molly states she wanted to LOOK like she’s changed, Jill promises Dad will care more about her acting older than looking older. As far as Jill’s concerned, Molly’s much more mature. To Molly, that’s a pretty big compliment coming from Jill. [Wing: SIBLING LOVE.]
Finishing up the last curlicue, Jill informs Molly to be careful moving her head or the bobby pins might come loose. Thanking her sister, Molly leaves the room walking like she’s got a book on her head. Ricky teases she looks like a porcupine monster from outer space, but the New Molly only sighs at her brother’s immaturity.
Sleeping with a head full of bobby pins is painful and difficult. Come morning it pays off, sort of, because Molly’s hair isn’t straight anymore! Okay granted it’s more ripply than curly, but it’s an improvement. Jill proposes doing a different treatment come nighttime.
Molly gets compliments from practically everyone at school thanks to her new hairstyle, but she was nervous about ruining her look. She wouldn’t even wear a hat out of fear it’d undo last night’s hard work. Even Miss LaVonda complimented Molly’s hair.
This week’s the start of the Miss Victory auditions. [Wing: Seriously, how many girls are auditioning? Because there’s no way this should take an entire week!] First up was local rich girl Alison Hargate. Now, Alison certainly looked the part, but her dancing left something to be desired. Linda thinks Molly’s a much better dancer. All throughout the auditions, the rest of the girls had to keep re-performing their parts. Molly gave it her all every time, but the more she danced the more sweaty she became. More sweat messed up her hair, and by the end of practice her pseudo-curls vanished.
For the following week, Jill and Molly tried different techniques to curl Molly’s hair and by the end of each day it was back to normal. Come Friday night, the night before Molly’s audition, Jill brought out the big guns. It’s time for the wet hair treatment, which involves wetting Molly’s hair, wrapping it in pin curls, and then wetting it again. Molly slept with her hair wet and needed to keep the pin curls in until the last minute. By the following Saturday afternoon, Molly’s head felt like a block of ice thanks to the cold weather. Oh but her hair was fucking gorgeous once the pins came off!
It’s too bad her glasses sort of ruined her look.
Molly decided fuck it, she can dance the Miss Victory routine without her glasses. The New Molly doesn’t need glasses to be Miss Victory.
Now, surprisingly, or maybe amazingly, Molly really HAS memorized the routine down to the last step. As Miss Victory, Molly’s flawless. Even though her eyesight’s a bit fuzzy, she doesn’t make a single mistake. By the time she’s done, every single girl’s clapping. Miss LaVonda decides Molly’s perfect for the role after seeing such a positive response, and announces Molly’s Miss Victory! While given a special suitcase to carry the costume back and forth from class, all the girls cheer Molly on as Miss Victory.
In the following week as the 18th drew closer, Molly could barely contain her excitement. Perhaps she’s a little TOO excited. Mrs. McIntire notes Molly’s a bit pink, and she feels a little feverish. I mean, sure Molly’s throat is a little sore but that’s probably from singing during rehearsal. Mom’s worried Molly might be catching something and doesn’t want her going to bed with wet hair anymore. She can do it before the show, but Molly has to take care of herself or she might get sick.
Going back to braids was a mixed blessing. Yeah she wasn’t the glamorous New Molly, but her scalp didn’t feel prickly from wearing pins all the time. And yeah, her nose WAS a bit runny.
However, Molly convinced her mom to let her do the wet hair for the dress rehearsal before the show. Mrs. McIntire made Molly promise to wear a hat on the way to practice. Since the girls’ dance routine was last, they got to watch everyone else on stage.
First up, Alison’s mom got to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in a dress making her look like the Statue of Liberty. Mrs. Hargate stretches out the high notes for so long almost everyone sighs in relief when she’s done.
Ricky performs in the Jefferson Junior High School Band as one of the tuba players.
Brad’s in a skit about buying War Bonds. [Wing: Oh, damn, I should have put that Captain America clip down here! And yes, I know I could move it, but it works in both places, so I’m leaving it.]
Mrs. McIntire got to give a speech about donating to the Red Cross Blood Drive. Molly tries not to sneeze while her mom speaks so she doesn’t distract her. She can’t help but feel proud at her mom right now.
Jill sings in the church choir, but at the point the girls have to get ready for their dance routine. Thankful to be rid of the bobby pins again, Molly ignores her headache and gives another amazing performance as Miss Victory. By the end of the rehearsal the dress audience is loudly applauding the girls and Molly. She can’t see them without her glasses, but she can feel the enthusiasm. Miss LaVonda especially proclaims Molly looked and danced perfect. By tomorrow night, Molly’ll bring down the house!
It’s a good thing Molly’s not sure what “bringing down the house means,” because her worst fears soon come true. By night she feels awful, but in the morning she feels WORSE. She can barely get out of bed and it hurts when she tries to swallow her food at breakfast. The wet hair treatment and cold weather’s finally caught up to her.
After helping Brad get dressed (Brad wearing his best clothes in case Dad gets home today), Mrs. McIntire checks Molly’s forehead. Molly’s burning up and Mrs. McIntire’s kicking herself for having allowed this “wet hair nonsense.” Molly’s forced back into bed when her mom checks her temperature, which is 103!
Molly thinks she can just spend the day resting before the show, only the doctor comes by and confirms Molly’s ill for real. She’s got an ear infection alongside her sore throat. [Wing: God, that’s a horrible combination. I got ear infections all the time as a kid, and often sore throats (or tonsillitis, until I had my tonsils removed). Poor kid.] Molly has to stay in bed and take drops three times a day. She’s not going ANYWHERE even as Molly pleads she’ll rest as much as possible AFTER the show. Sorry hon, but Miss Victory’s been benched.
Molly’s mom and siblings all feel genuinely bad for her because they know how hard she’s worked. Even Ricky doesn’t think its fair that Alison will sub for her because Molly’s a better dancer. Worse, they’ve just received a telegram from Dad. It says his travel plans changed and he’s not sure when he’ll be home. Wonderful.
Molly spends most of the day in bed and gives up on wanting curly hair. What’s the point if she can’t be Miss Victory? It’s back to braids for her. Now she’s just the same old Molly again. Mom later comes in and says Mrs. Gilford their housekeeper is running late, but everyone has to hurry for the show. Left all alone in the house, Molly can’t find the energy to keep herself busy. She just feels sick and alone. She’s so sick she thinks she hears the front door opening, but that can’t be right because it’s too soon for the housekeeper to-
HOLY SHIT DAD’S HOME!
Hearing her dad’s voice for the first time in years, Molly runs out of bed and down the stairs into her father’s arms. Reunited with his younger daughter, Mr. McIntire exclaims how good it is to see his olly Molly, looking just as he’s imagined in his head for two years.
To him, Molly’s absolutely perfect.
THERE. IT’S DONE. I HAVE FINISHED THE SIX BOOK MOLLY SERIES AND IT ONLY TOOK TWO-THREE YEARS.
Now that’s it done I can finally feel comfortable enough to focus on recapping other stuff without feeling guilty.
To best my knowledge, outside these six they did other Molly books like the mystery novel I recapped a while ago. I think they take place after Molly’s dad returned and address his difficulty in adjusting to being home. No I don’t think I’ll try to track them down. My goal was to review the six originals and I did.
Looking back, I much preferred the first three books over the latter half. It’s not that I felt the Books 4-6 were less enjoyable. I mainly preferred the atmosphere in the first three, especially the Christmas book. My favorite character would have to be Mrs. McIntire. After reading about useless adults in so many horror books on Point Horror, her competence was a much needed breath of fresh air.
So while I figure out what to recap next on here, everyone remain safe and healthy.